Poland in Photographs by Jewish Artists
Chapter 15. Poland Freed
Leonard Freed’s Czechoslovakia & Poland. Vestige of Judaism in Eastern Europe documents the oftentimes ignored revival of Jewish community in Eastern Europe. Unlike the vast majority of western Jewish photographers, Freed does not focus on the Shoah or its aftermath; his Poland is neither symbolic nor imaginary. Neither is it a space in which a spectacle of traumatic events must constantly be played out; and if there is in this Poland a stage, it is only in so far as ordinary, everyday life is one. The intimacy, objectivity and humour of Freed’s gaze prove that Poland in Jewish photography does not have to be a tool for restaging the spectacle of trauma. His is a Poland liberated from the dominant pattern of representation.
In contrast to his previous reports from Poland, which dealt with the religious and secular life of all its inhabitants, during his 1994 trip Freed was to portray a select group – the Polish Jews. Images showing the latter, published as part of this project on the Magnum website, are showcased with a few photographs of Polish streets. Following his 1994 project was a series of photographs from the German-Polish border (1996). But Freed’s interest in Polish realities dates back to the year 1973. Among his photographs from the 70s released by the Magnum Agency website there is an image of serious children from a Warsaw nursery school, a photograph showing the busy work of rebuilding the landscape of the old town in Gdansk,...
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